Eating Well When On Vacation
It’s very challenging for most people to stay on the healthy eating track when vacationing. As the author of Clean Plates Manhattan 2011, a healthy and sustainable eating restaurant guide, I often encounter the question, “What should I do if I am not at a ‘Clean Plates-approved’ restaurant?”
Clean Plates guidelines are a great set of tools to aid in choosing a restaurant, but as we all know, it’s not always possible to dine in an ideal setting. Your best tool is to be prepared: prior to leaving for your destination become familiar with restaurants in the area that serve high quality and delicious food. Travel guides and the internet are great resources for finding such establishments.
However, life isn’t perfect, and the best-laid plans occasionally fail. No matter how prepared and mindful you are, you may sometimes end up at a restaurant that doesn’t offer the best food options in terms of health and sustainability. So what do you do when the situation arises?
Try to avoid meat if you can. If you eat animal products, choose grass-fed, pasture-raised animals over ones conventionally raised with antibiotics and growth hormones. If you are unsure about how the restaurant’s meats were raised, ask your server — restaurants that serve organic meat products are often happy to tell you about their sources (if your server is unsure or vague, it’s a safe bet that the meats are conventionally raised and should be avoided). If you do decide to order the conventional steak or chicken, balance it with lots of veggies, especially delicious green leafy ones like kale and spinach that are packed with antioxidants to help counteract some of the potential harmful effects of farm-raised meat. Your body – and the planet – will thank you.
Be Creative. Many restaurants will gladly accommodate special requests and guests with dietary restrictions – no need to be shy or feel uncomfortable. Look for dishes that feature beans (your protein), a whole grain (think brown rice or quinoa) and/or veggies. You can even ask if they would add any of these components to another existing dish to create an appropriate entrée. Many delicious appetizers, salads, or side dishes can also be made into entrée-sized portions or even combined to make up a meal with tasty variety.
A cozy pasta dish (preferably cooked al dente to limit the spike in blood sugar levels) with a salad and side of veggies often makes for a great and satisfying meal. Since most restaurants use a lot of refined salt and sugar in their sauces (not to mention poor quality oils), it is always wise to ask the chef to go light on the sauce – you could even ask for it on the side so you control how much of it you use.
Most importantly, don’t stress. Follow the 80/20 rule. Simply put, if you eat well a significant majority of the time (think high quality whole foods), your body will be better equipped to process less healthy foods once in a while. And most importantly, whatever you do decide to eat, enjoy it and then forget about it. Stress and guilt about what you eat is a lot more detrimental to your health than an occasional piece of pie.
Jared Koch, Founder of Clean Plates, graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition with certification by Columbia University, Teachers College in 2005 and graduated from the Global Institute for Alternative Medicine in 2004. He is a health coach, nutritional consultant, and certified yoga instructor with expertise in meditation, and he speaks frequently on the topic of nutrition and has spoken at such organizations as Google, Sony, Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, MTV, and Time Warner.
Jared graduated from the University of Michigan where he completed a pre-medical program while majoring in economics. With an entrepreneurial spirit, he delayed enrollment in Albert Einstein Medical School to launch an entertainment company with his brother. The company grossed $10 million in annual sales within ten years. Despite corporate success, Jared still felt a strong need to attend to the wellness of others. Upon selling his stake in the entertainment business, he began ten years of wellness study with the likes of Dr. Andrew Weil, Deepak Chopra, raw food guru David Wolfe, and Walter Willett, Chair of Harvard’s Department of Nutrition.
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